Tony DeMeo

Ron Jaworski and Meaningful Stats

Ron “Jaws” Jaworski is one of my favorite NFL analysts. I especially enjoy his NFL Matchup Show on ESPN. Though he lost his mind for a while on Johnny Football, he is usually on target.

So when his book The Games That Changed the Game came out, I picked up a copy & read it. Not only was it very interesting, it gave tremendous testimony to the theory of “Meaningful Stats”

Jaws picked out seven games in NFL history that in his opinion changed the NFL. I personally would have included the NYG – Balt. Colts sudden death game in 1958 & the Ice Bowl between the Cowboys & the Packers. But Jaws picked out these games where some key innovations changed the way football was played in the NFL.

What does this have to do with my theory of Meaningful Stats? Well in the seven games that Jaws picked the Meaningful Stats were very, meaningful.

  1. No team that scored 25+ points lost
  2. The four teams scored more than 25 won.
  3. Four teams held opponents to less than 16 points and they all won.
  4. Four teams scored a non-offensive touchdown and three won.
  5. Five teams had a +2 turnover margin and they all won.

That us a significant validation of “Meaningful Stats”

These are the seven games Jaws selected:

  1. 1963 AFL Championship Game – Chargers 51 – Patriots 10

Sid Gillman’s vertical pass attack & the running of Keith Lincoln scorched the Pats’ defense.

Meaningful Stats: Chargers got 2 of 4. They scored 25+ (51) & gave up -16 (10)


  1. 1974 AFC Championship Game – Steelers 24 – Raiders 13

Bud Carson’s Cover II Defense smothered the Raider’s Offense & led to a 1978 rule change to help offenses against aggressive press corners. This was the start of what became Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2.


The Meaningful Stat was The Steelers held the Raiders to -16 points (13). They missed the 25+ (24) but their defense was dominant. Neither team had any other meaningful stat.


  1. Oakland Raiders vs San Diego Chargers 9/14/1980 & Don Coryell’s “Roving Y” SD 30 – Oak. 24.

Everyone knows Don Coryell’s “Air Coryell Offense” which built upon Sid Gillman’s Offense. However few realize, it wasn’t until Kellen Winslow emerged as a Tight End with Wide Receiver speed that Air Coryell really got off the ground.

The Meaningful Stats scoreboard was:

SD scored the 25+ (30) – the Raiders did not (24)

The Raiders did score a Non-Offensive TD (Fumble Ret)

But the really big one was San Diego had a +3 Turnover Margin.


  1. NFC Divisional Championship Game 1/3/1982 – 49ERs 38 – NYG 24.

The West Coast Offense was the most significant offensive development in the NFL since the Lombardi Sweep in my opinion because it gave less talented teams a chance. Bill Walsh was the mastermind behind the WCO but he also fused parts of Sid Gillman. Paul Brown & Tommy Prothro into his attack. In this game, Walsh adjusted his protection to stop Lawrence Taylor. The result was a huge 49ER win.

The Meaningful Stat Scoreboard:

The Niners got the 25+ (38) – NYG did not (24)

The Niners got a Non-Offensive TD (Ronnie Lott pick 6)

The Niners had a +3 Turnover Margin

  1. Chicago Bears 44 – Dallas Cowboys 0 – 11/17/1985

Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense was at its peak in 1985, the year da Bears won the Super Bowl. Some people forget that Walter “Sweetness” Payton contributed a little to that season as well. But the 46 Defense was a dominant force. It was only the Miami Dolphins led by Dan Marino throwing the quick game that beat the Bears that year.

The Meaningful Stat Scoreboard:

The Bears got the 25+ points (44)

The Bears held the Cowboys to -16 points (0)

The Bears got a Non-Offensive TD (Richardson’s 36 yard pick 6)

The Bears had a +3 Turnover Margin.

The Bears got the Grand Slam – all 4 Meaningful Stats!


  1. 1992 AFC Divisional Playoffs Buffalo Bills 24 – Steelers 3


Dick LeBeau’s Zone Blitz Defense kept the Steelers in the game against the high powered Bill’s K-Gun Offense. The Zone Blitz was significant because teams could Blitz with reduced risk of giving up the Home Run. This caused offenses to be able to “direct the protection” to fit the rush. In this game The Bills went to the run game to get the “W”


Meaningful Stat Scoreboard:

Neither team scored 25+ points but The Bills came close (24)

The Bills held The Steelers to – 16 points (3)

The Bills had a +3 Turnover Margin


Though Jaws was trumpeting Dick LeBeau’s Zone Blitz, I thought Marv Levy the Bills’ Head Coach, did a great job of adapting his offense to win the game. Some coach’s try to prove a point (Mike Martz next game) but Levy went to the run game to pound out the “W” – Great Coaching!



  1. Super Bowl XXXVI – 2/2/2002 – Pats 20 – Rams 17


This a great Meaningful Stat Game but also validation of the theory “Averages don’t matter” Football is not like baseball where averages are important. Football is about matchups and the game THAT day. This is the theory behind Meaningful Stats. Can you score points vs the best on your schedule or do you just run up scores on cupcakes?

Bill Belichick put it this way “Every week is its own challenge. Every game brings its own set of circumstances, adjustments, play style and matchups. We focus on what we want to do that week not what we did two weeks beforeor ten weeks before”

The Rams were heavily favored because of averages but those averages did not help vs the Pats. The Pats attacked Marshall Faulk and took him out of the game – the result – UPSET Pats!

The Meaningful Stat Scoreboard:

Neither team scored +25 Points

Neither team held the other to -16 but the Pats held the highest scoring Offense in the NFL to 17. Mike Martz would NOT run the ball vs a defense with 7 DBs.

The Pats scored a Non-Offensive TD (Ty Law’s 47 yard pick 6)

The Pats had a +3 Turnover Margin

Ron Jaworski did a great job researching this book and gives plenty of food for thought which makes it a very worthwhile read.